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What is Power Factor Correction?

Power Factor Correction (PFC) is the process of improving power factor (and, therefore, power quality) by reducing the reactive power component of an AC circuit.

Power factor measures how efficiently your electrical power is being used. It looks at the ratio between real power and reactive power to determine total power drawn by a single item of AC electrical equipment or a complete electrical installation.

The ideal power factor is one (sometimes referred to as unity). A power factor of less than one indicates that extra power is being used to achieve the task at hand and, therefore, electricity is being wasted.

PFC aims to correct this by reducing the load on the electrical distribution system and increasing energy efficiency, which can help reduce costs. It also decreases the risk of instability and equipment failure.

The most common way to achieve PFC is through the addition of capacitors in parallel to the load. Static PFC can be applied at each individual motor, at the distribution board, or at the origin of the installation.

The capacitors can automatically switch in or out of the circuit to counteract the inefficient negative effects of motors and machines.

Why PFC is beneficial to manufacturers

It’s common for industrial installations to operate at power factors between 0.7 and 0.8, which is poor. Correcting the power factor on your installations is beneficial for several reasons.

Improve energy efficiency: PFC can improve the power factor resulting in more efficient use of electrical energy. This can lead to significant cost savings on energy bills, especially if your factory consumes a large amount of electricity or you operate over multiple sites.

Stabilise voltage: PFC can help stabilise the voltage supplied to your facility, reducing the risk of damage to electrical equipment. This can save you money on maintenance and repairs, and improve the overall reliability of your machinery, reducing unplanned downtime or machine failure.

Reduce harmonic distortion: Harmonic distortions are common voltage and current variations caused by frequency changes within the electrical distribution systems. This can cause electrical equipment to malfunction and may shorten the life of your equipment. PFC can reduce harmonic distortion in the electrical current.

Improve power quality: PFC can improve the quality of the power supply, which is particularly beneficial if you use sensitive equipment. Better power quality leads to more accurate and consistent results from processes, which can translate to increased productivity and improved product quality.

Improve energy management: Many PFC units can measure, monitor and report power usage information. This information can be used to optimise energy and further reduce your costs.

Reduce carbon emissions: reducing energy consumption is not only good for your bottom line, it’s good for the environment too. If your machinery and equipment aren’t running efficiently, you’re unnecessarily wasting energy and increasing your carbon footprint. PFC reduces the amount of wasted energy, helping you reduce your carbon emissions.

Other energy-saving solutions

Along with PFC, there are other energy-saving solutions that can help you increase efficiency and reduce costs. These include:

Variable Speed Drives: Many motors, fans, and pumps have different processes which require them to run at varying speeds rather than a fixed speed. Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) convert the incoming electrical supply of fixed frequency and voltage into a variable frequency and voltage output to the motor, reducing energy consumption.

Voltage Optimisation: Electricity suppliers in the UK are allowed to provide electricity to commercial properties at 230v, with an allowed -5/+10% tolerance. This means the voltage input into a business is often much higher than required. Electrical equipment is designed to run at the most efficient levels, but poor control over the incoming voltage (and tolerances) reduces efficiency. Voltage optimisation manages the voltage coming in and ensures the correct voltage is used and distributed to maximise efficiencies.

Energy Efficient Motors: Switching out your old inefficient motors for more modern efficient ones can be a simple way to reduce the amount of wasted energy. Newer motors also have several additional benefits, such as generating less heat and offering significantly reduced noise output.

Low-Energy Lighting: Upgrading to low-energy lighting will significantly reduce your operational running costs and can often deliver a positive return on investment within three to five years. Movement sensors, daylight sensors, and automated lighting can further reduce operational costs by utilising lighting only when necessary.

Energy Storage: Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) are a great way to harvest green energy and off-peak energy to create your company’s own micro-grid. This puts you in control of your power supply, protecting against escalating energy prices and supply interruptions.

If you’re trying to reduce energy consumption in your factory, any or all of the above solutions could help you make significant cost savings and reduce your carbon emissions.

Get started with our free energy reduction audit

At AES, we specialise in providing electrical services to manufacturers with a focus on energy reduction and will help you select the best solutions for your factory.

We offer a free energy reduction audit to help you understand where you can make the most significant impact and which energy-saving solutions are right for you.

After completing our assessment, we’ll provide you with a full report detailing energy consumption savings and the real cost savings to your business.

Our goal is to help you reduce energy consumption in the most effective way so you can generate a return on investment as quickly as possible.

Contact us to find out more or book your free energy reduction audit.

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